Political prisoner Ola Bini, who was arrested on April 11 in Quito, Ecuador and put into preventative detention, writes from prison about why he chose to move to Ecuador
Two weeks. Prison here in Ecuador is a maddening mix of long stretches of isolation and boredom interspersed with random threats and acts of violence. Today was a break in the structure: visitation day.
You can receive max 2 visitors for 3 hours. Two of my best friends here in Ecuador visited. It’s always great to see friends; the isolation here is probably the hardest aspect. But after visits, I always end up feeling empty, pensive and moody. My friends brought up the question I want to write about today. Simply, why am I in Ecuador? And my recent experiences, have they changed my perspectives?
I’m sure a lot of people assume I’m angry at Ecuador, that I will want to leave as soon as I get out and never come back, but no, nothing could be further from the truth. I love Ecuador. I love living here. I have my life here and if I’m allowed, I would like to continue my life.
Obviously, I’m not happy at being in my current position, but I can’t blame the whole country for that. Instead, I do blame certain specific individuals who are instrumentalizing my friendship with Julian Assange and making me a political pawn without any trace of wrongdoing. Yes, I’m angry at these people and so Ecuadorians be. Using – and abusing – the laws of the country in this way should not be acceptable. But this is being done by a few individuals, not the whole population.
To be sure, the penal system of Ecuador has to be reformed. The plight of my many fellow inmates is evidence of this; they mostly live in significantly worse conditions than mine.
Ecuador is not perfect. There are many things that could be improved. Just like the rest of Latin America, Ecuador has several hundreds of years of colonial history to deal with, followed by many years of military dictatorships, general unrest and repeated unlawful interventions by so called developed countries.
So no, Ecuador can improve on many things, but from the historical perspective, the peoples of Latin America have shown tremendous strength in getting as far as they have.
So, coming back to the original question: Why did I come here?
For many reasons, and sometimes they are hard to tease but some are very mundane. I really like the people here. People are warm, open, caring and they care about the community. This attracted me a lot. And I can say that even in my current situation, this perspective on the people remain. From how my fellow inmates have taken care of me, to how people on the street have come up to my parents on the street, expressing their support. My faith in the Ecuadorian people remains strong.
I like that politics is something that people care about here. It’s in the blood of people. That’s something I appreciated from the beginning. People in Ecuador talk about open source and understand the political value of technology.
And there are talented people here. When we started my organization in Ecuador, we quickly found a team of people with lots of potential, diligence and drive. Honestly, I’m dying to get back to work with them and continue doing good for the world.
Ecuador is not a paradise. It’s a complex, multicultural, sometimes strange place with all kinds of people with different worldviews, dealing with 500 years of complicated history. Let’s not forget that and reduce the country and its people to a caricature – good or bad -.
I’m glad to be here and hopefully I have along future ahead of me in Ecuador, hopefully outside of prison!